Irlen Syndrome, formerly known as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), is corrected by wearing specially coloured lenses, but Irlen Syndrome is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardised educational or medical tests.
The brain of a person with unidentified Irlen Syndrome works way harder than is normal - under MRI, huge areas of their brain are "lit up" when carrying out simple tasks. This is extremely tiring, and thus tends to lead to headaches, frustration, anger outbursts, exhaustion and so on. Put the correct lenses on that person, and their brain calms right down.
People with this condition are affected in a variety of ways. When reading, they may see halos or shadows on the page, words moving, shimmering, undulating, exploding, dividing into strange columns or shapes, sinking into or rising above the page, static, or may have difficulty discerning the letters against the page background. No wonder reading is hard for them! But not all folk with Irlen have reading difficulties (just as not all dyslexics have reading difficulties). One of my children who has severe Irlen syndrome learned to read at age 4 with no problem whatsoever. But my husband and the other 3 of my kids who have Irlens did have various reading issues, or were "late bloomers" with reading.
I will not go into too much detail here of all the ins-and-outs of Irlens - my main purpose is to mention this so you have heard about it, and invite you to investigate further.
Getting diagnosed, and the right Irlen lenses, can be life changing! Exactly what the effects are vary from person to person, but for the 4 out of my 5 kids who have Irlen's lenses, between them we have seen: improved reading and retention of information, prevention of headaches and migraines, total mood improvement, less tiredness, reduction in clumsiness, improved safety in driving (!!) (both of those due to improved depth perception and increased peripheral vision), dramatic improvement in food/chemical sensitivities, ability to function under florescent light (previously an impossibility!), increased calmness, greater ability to cope with life in general and so on.
To learn more about Irlen Syndrome, visit the international website HERE and/or download the information pack HERE. The information pack includes some simple questionnaires you can do at home, which will give you a good idea whether or not it is worth pursuing further Irlen investigation.
There are Irlen screeners around the country who can do a pre-screening for Irlen Syndrome - very worthwhile in my experience, and much cheaper than going straight to the full diagnostics.
There are then a scattering of opticians around the country who can do the Irlen diagnostic, in which the exact colour of lenses (filters) for the individual person is prescribed. There are a HUGE number of possible combinations and permutations, and it is important to get just the right combination of colours.
However, Irlen diagnostics and glasses are not cheap - but there are ways of reducing cost, including:
1) If you have a community services card, then the annual $287.50 allowance for glasses for children 15 and under can be used towards the cost of Irlen diagnostics/prescription.
2) In some areas, there is funding available you can apply for - eg for those in the Rangatikei/Bulls/Sanson/Foxton area, there is funding available through a trust - for more info contact screener Prue Deighton (her contact details are in the info pack download).
3) Shop around - if you live somewhere where it's reasonable to choose which optician who does Irlen diagnosing you will drive to see, compare prices first. There is quite a lot of variation.